When Having It Good Is a Bad Thing

Finola is going away to college next month.  The change brought on some anxiety about surviving academically at a challenging school, integrating socially, and just leaving home.  Mr. Gaelic and I tried to assuage her fears by explaining that 1) in the past year she took four AP classes which are basically college level classes, 2) the house she's been assigned to sounds like it's full of people just like her, and 3) she's been going to resident summer camps since she was seven.

That brought up a discussion of Mr. Gaelic's and my college experiences.  Whereas Finola isn't chomping at the bit to get away from here, I, on the other hand, couldn't wait to get the hell outta Dodge. 

It's not that I didn't love my parents.  They gave me as much love and attention as they were capable of while dealing with an older sibling who had mental and emotional problems. 

But in my small Southern town of 7,000, you run with the same group of kids in everything you do.  The same people are in your class at school, your church choir and youth group, your Girl Scout troop, your ballet class, and on and on and on.  And when a certain wannabe-Alpha girl gets mad at you in kindergarten for having a boy like you before a boy liked her, she can turn the other girls against you.  For life.  Or at least for twelve long years.

In high school it didn't help matters that I was taller than every boy except two.  Or that I was the valedictorian.  Or the county winner of the Junior Miss pageant.  More flame for the fire of making me a pariah.  I couldn't wait to get out of that little town. 

Thoughts of Hemingway, Faulkner, Wolfe, and Williams rushed in as I was explaining this to Finola.  One thing makes for great writers - a tortured life.  Finola has written several multi-chapter stories that she's published on Internet sites.  Being the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad mother that I am, I turned to Finola and told her she'd never be a great writer.  "You had too good of a childhood."

She agreed.


  1. You did indeed need to go off to greener pastures. And your daughter will see she'll have fun and meet new people and it's not so bad.

  2. Having grown up in a quite awful home I knew that going away to College was the light and the way.

    What struck me about it once I was there was a) how easy most of my classes actually were; b) how it was a singularly spectacular opportunity to reinvent oneself.

    As far as your daughter's anxiety, the fact that she is worried about it is probably a good sign. She will work a little harder as a result and as long she follows her interests, and is willing to accept her strengths and weaknesses, her academic success is not in much doubt.

    Socially colleges are vast and generally diverse so it will most likely be quite easy for her to find friend groups.

    My prediction is that she will find College to be one of the better parts of her life when she looks back on it retrospectively.

  3. Oh and Tolstoy and Harper Lee are good counter examples, hopefully your daughter will do them better.

  4. College is what we make of it. I see kids every year that blossom, and others who go to class then go back home every weekend - never participating in any kind of student life. Of course, I'm juco, so the clientele is different. The advice I give new students is to get involved with some kind of campus student group, and to never be afraid to talk to profs, office people, etc. My second year at TJC a young lady came by right before graduation and told me that if I had not helped her during freshman registration, after seeing how incredibly frustrated and upset she had become, she would have gone home that day. Your daughter has participated in groups all her life thanks to your leadership. And she's a brainiac. She'll do great. It'll be fun to hear about in your blogs.